Don’t Come to My House in a White Shirt and Tie

The other day a friend from Utah sent me a clipping of a Robert Kirby column from the Salt Lake Tribune about a stake president’s directive that all home and visiting teaching is to be done in Sunday uniform, regardless of the day of the week or hour of the day, that is, white shirts and ties for men (no Dockers, please) and proper skirts for women (no denim, please).

The white shirt and tie uniform is definitely spreading. Here in Sammamish, Washington, my grandson, made a deacon a couple of weeks ago, had to lie out from passing the sacrament on his first Sunday because the white shirts his mother had ordered online hadn’t arrived yet.

I don’t suppose anything is to be done about the Sunday white shirt and tie rule. It appears to be a practice as deeply entrenched in the Mormon sense of ritual as making sure the concluding speaker in sacrament meeting is always a priesthood holder. However, a simple way of protesting the white shirt and tie directive for home teaching does occur to me. The head of a household need only to inform his or her home teachers that if they show up in Sunday best on a day that isn’t Sunday they aren’t welcome in that home. If they want to home teach that household, they need to look like they have some individuality.


  1. “It appears to be a practice as deeply entrenched in the Mormon sense of ritual as making sure the concluding speaker in sacrament meeting is always a priesthood holder.”


    I’ve never even heard of that rule.

  2. We frequently have sisters speak as the last speaker in our Sacrament meeting. Having lived in Sammamish for 10 years I know this was not a pratice in the ward I attended there.

  3. [deleted by admin]

    To each their own, I guess.

  4. #3: I am confused..were you referring to Bro. Peterson’s directive, or the Stake President’s?

  5. I am apparantly an idiot who can not spell.

    carry on.

  6. Kirby’s column can be found here.

    There is a chance that perhaps Kirby was stretching it a little. I certainly hope that he was, and if so, I don’t mind at all, because it deserves all the ridicule we can give it. But it could very well be 100% true.

    Assuming that this directive is authentic, it is nonetheless, to use a technical term, BS. I’m having some difficulty wondering why nobody (counselors, high council, bishoprics) didn’t question it at all, but just passed it along like tablets from Sinai. Had I been in a meeting when this was proposed, my first impulse would have been to laugh out loud.

    I especially like how Kirby ends his column:

    But I do wonder about the real possibility of becoming a bit too busy with things that don’t really matter. It’s one thing to ask people to dress nice for church and another to start holding color swatches against their clothing.
    It’s a valid concern considering what God has done to “righteous” people in the past when they started showing signs of not having enough to do.

  7. That’s a funny idea, Mr. Peterson.

    Of course, it is good to teach young men to dress properly. The problem with those kind of rules is that we usually just go through the motions.

    It would be better if we taught young men how to dress properly. That includes learning how to iron and starch a shirt, how to roll socks, how to fold and hang pants, and how to select matching cloths.

    AND it would be even more important to teach our young folk that it’s not cool to be busy bodies. Being dressed poorly can be a problem but it is never as big as telling other adults what to wear, especially not from the pulpit. It’s just bad form and indicates a lack of proper upbringing.

    We aspire to be a community but judgement will implode any community.

    PS: I dimly remember an Ensign message by one of the apostles, may be Elder Faust, that pointed out that in a pinch it is better to wear dirty work outfits to Church than skip sacrament meeting.

  8. Thank you admin for the reminder to attempt to follow Elder Holland’s Council.

    To say what I said before differently. I think it is a bit over reaching to ask people to home teach dressed in a white shirt and tie, however, I simply find it obnoxious to think of the implications of refusing my hometeachers to enter my home based on their clothing choice. While asking someone to do something is one thing, refusing someone is altogether something else. I think it oversteps the bounds of propriety.

  9. My home teacher always visits in a white shirt and tie. He is the most humble man I know. It is always touching to me that he takes the time to prepare himself physically as well as spiritually.

  10. [Not edited by admin… Yet.]

    Come on admins — don’t you think you might be a little over protective of brother Peterson in this thread so far? He’s a big boy after all…

  11. Sally, but does he wear Dockers? The stake president in question prohibited Dockers for church or home teaching. I think he just disqualified every deacon, teacher, and priest in my ward from administering or passing the sacrament. He also got the idea from somewhere that it is his business to tell people what they should wear for weddings and engagement pictures. I think this sort of petty bossiness calls for something more than charitable eye-rolling.

  12. Conservative “business” wear isn’t just a Latter-day Saint religious byway though.

    Where I live, whenever I see two young men in dark pants and crisp white shirts with ties walking down the sidewalk on a sweltering summer afternoon, I first have to strain my eyes to see if they’re wearing the “kippahs” of Modern Othodox Jewry or else name tags of Mormon missionaries before I can place them.

  13. Mark IV says:

    Julie and Matt W.,

    You both described the SP’s actions as overreaching, and I agree with you. That is perhaps the most charitable way to describe it. But don’t the words obnoxious and toddler-like also apply to the SP? I’m interested in why you appear to be willing to give the instigator almost a free pass and describe his actions in the most benign terms.

    I also agree with you that turning HTs away on account of their dress is going too far. But can we not also just say anyone who would do that is just overreaching and in need of some charitable eye-rolling?

  14. Adam Greenwood says:

    [If the admins had edited this post, they would have added the word, “cowboy.”]

    Julie and Matt W. are probably under the impression that they’re responding to the post of the person who advocates turning away hometeachers if they’re dressed up and not the post of the Stake President who wants hometeachers to always, always dress up.

  15. Julie M. Smith says:

    Mark IV,

    I think that there are more options on the table than “giving the SP a free pass” and “refusing the admit the HT/VT.” I’ve already stated my opinion on the latter. If I were in this stake, I’d either stick with the charitable private eye-rolling, or if I felt strongly about it, I’d make an appointment to speak to the SP to tell him that I thought his policy was causing more harm than good.

    “I also agree with you that turning HTs away on account of their dress is going too far. But can we not also just say anyone who would do that is just overreaching and in need of some charitable eye-rolling?”

    That’s more or less what I did say before it was deleted, wasn’t it?

  16. Matt W. says:

    Mark: To be fair, Levi is only responding to the caricature of an SP as portrayed here. I am basing my concept of such a stake president on every stake president which I have ever met, which would mean the Stake President gave his opinion on this matter, and probably didn’t say people in Dockers are going to hell. In any case, I do not know anything about this Stake President, whether he exists, orthe context of what he said. I do know what this post says and I find it heavy handed, to put it mildly. If such a stake president did exist, I would think it much less passive agressive and much less wimpy to take up any such issue with him directly, as opposed to the home teachers.

    To be clear, I see nothnig wrong with kindly correcting leadership in a tactful way. This isn’t it.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    I read the Kirby piece when it first came out. I thought (and think) it was very believable. We seem to be headed clearly in the direction of a de riguer priesthood uniform.

    My own protest is simply not to comply. I wear nice dress shirts (colors, stripes and only rarely white) and a tie, usually with business casual-type pants (not Dockers, but similar). Sometimes I’ll wear a sport jacket; in the winter I might wear a sweater; in the summer I usually don’t wear anything over my shirt. If anyone wants to not let me do something because of the way that I’m dressed, I would consider that a really big bonus. Unfortunately, out here in Illinois, every body is sorely needed, and no one would think to excuse me from some priesthood duty just because I wasn’t wearing the “uniform.”

    Maybe I should move to Utah.

  18. Carlton says:

    Why the heck do the women get a pass on facial hair?

  19. We might be a bit hasty in dismissing the possibility that Mr. Peterson’s suggestion was tongue in cheek.

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    I remember reading a story (perhaps in the New Era?) by Vaughn J. Featherstone. As I recall, his child was sick and needed a blessing. Rather than giving him the blessing, he took the time to stop what he was doing, go into the bedroom (or perhpas it was the batcave), change into his priesthood uniform (suit, white shirt and tie), then give the blessing, and then change back into his work clothes.

    How one responds to that story is a kind of rorschach test. Some people see it as an incredibly positive illustration of deep respect for the priesthood. Others see it as just plain silly. (I’m in the latter camp myself. If the kid is sick, for pete’s sake, give him a blessing already!)

  21. Mark IV says:


    That’s more or less what I did say before it was deleted, wasn’t it?

    I don’t know, since I didn’t do the deleting. I’m going by what you have said elsewhere, where you applied the description _toddler-like_ to someone who would turn away the HTs. My question to you is, could we not also use that term to describe the SP?

    I think there are many good reasons to give our local church leaders the benefit of the doubt and assume they are acting in a spirit of goodwill. I also think local leaders should extend the same charity to the members. But I also think we have a right to expect more from our leaders than we do from the rank and file membership. I’m not surprised when some of the families I home teach to do or say childish and obnoxious things. A stake president needs to meet a higher standard.

  22. Steve Evans says:

    What Hellmut said in #21. There’s a lot of silliness revolving around this post, around the SP, and around the commenters on this thread. Typically I welcome silliness, but not of this magnitude. Calm down, people! I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

  23. many here seem to think that this is just to fussy, that dressing formally somehow gets in the way of things. At what point does too much casualness get in the way of things? Personally, I find that people dressing, acting, and talking casually is more often the cause of problems than people being too formal.

  24. Mark IV says:

    Steve, you haven’t seen silliness yet. Since this is the last day of the month, I’m preparing to go out hometeaching, and I’m gonna call my Samoan friend and ask to borrow his lava-lava.

  25. [Kaimi is an invented persona of the BCC admins. Just so you know.]


    With all due respect, and to echo what many commenters have said so far, your last line is just plain silly. You write,

    “The head of a household need only to inform his or her home teachers that if they show up in Sunday best on a day that isn’t Sunday they aren’t welcome in that home. If they want to home teach that household, they need to look like they have some individuality.”

    You’re making the exact same mistake as the Stake President. You’re essentializing the shirt and tie. For the SP, shirt and tie is always good. For you, it’s apparently always bad. Both approaches are equally silly.

    Why not try looking beyond the shirt color? It’s absolutely possible to have individuality with a white shirt on — and suggesting otherwise implies a very impoverished definition of individuality. Your suggestion that individuality is at root sartorial is just as silly as the SP’s suggestion that righteousness is at root sartorial.

    (Also, have a little occupational perspective, man. For many of us, a dress shirt (sometimes white) and tie is our work clothes. The same for many attorneys, bankers, accountants, and so on. Calling a suit and tie “Sunday best” is myopic — it’s a simple work uniform for many of us. Are you really advocating turning away an attorney who comes to home teach straight from arguing in court? That’s ridiculous.)

  26. Um, I think Hellmut (#21) was on to something.

  27. [BCC admins love Guy Murray.]

    Levi Peterson:

    Don’t you have anything more substantive to write or complain about than white shirts and ties? You are still the editor of Dialogue no? Must be a slow next edition eh?


    Are you somehow afraid of letting criticism of Levi Peterson appear on BCC? Are you kidding me?

  28. Mark IV says:

    Hellmut, the voice of reason at BCC.

    Adam G., # 16,

    Be careful about cutting this SP too much slack. First he came for the Dockers, then he came for the plaid vests…

  29. MIchael says:

    “Toddler-like” and “ridiculous” are words best applied to the stake president who issues such edicts. I have had stake presidents who held expectations such as those Levi and Kirby describe. In every case, their understanding of religion was simple and literalistic, and they seemed to use such things as whether a man wore a white shirt or had a beard as indicators of his spirituality or lack thereof. The stake president was sincere and well-intentioned, but wrong.

  30. Levi, with all respect, I think you’ve diagnosed the problem correctly. But I disagree with your prescription. In my view, the obvious cure is for all of us to wear our rattiest jeans and t-shirts to church every week. Then such clothing will become Sunday dress, and all will be well in the world.

    Oh, and by the way, [profane rant deleted by BCC admins].

  31. By the way, you [profanities removed],

    I must register my objection to the way this [profanities removed] post and its [profanity removed] author discriminates against gays, lesbians, and transgender members. Particularly ones who wish to be married.

  32. Steve Evans says:

    [profrane tirade deleted]

    Guy, I’m not the only admin. But I believe in being good to guests, especially guests with a track record and expertise such as Levi’s. I don’t consider any of us [deleted]s up to the task of critiquing him.

  33. Kristine says:

    All–I’m the one that did the editing. I’m a Southern girl; I was taught that it’s bad manners to insult your elders. 30-somethings don’t get to call people who have been around the block twice as many times as they have “toddler-like.” That’s all. I left most of the comment stand, because I think Julie’s argument is sound (if perhaps taking the original post a bit too seriously. Hint to everyone: posts based on Robert Kirby columns are probably not the place to demonstrate your razor-sharp powers of analysis. Lighten up already!) There are plenty of ways to critique the response Levi suggested without being rude.

  34. Mark IV says:

    Carlton, #20,

    Why the heck do the women get a pass on facial hair?

    Good question. Women with moustasches are hindrances to the spirit, especially when they can grow a better one than I.

    Since this stake president also prohibited facial hair, I want to know if he set the example by shaving off his eyebrows.

  35. …and what if my sideburns continue all the way down to my jaw line. Is that facial hair or head hair?

  36. Steve Evans says:

    JNS, in your case those sideburns would have to be shaved as an extension of pubic hair.

  37. If we’re going to become legalistic about our modes of everyday dress, I’d like to know what the loopholes are up front. Because I’m probably going to have to exploit most of them. For example, in Levi’s recounting of the Robert Kirby article, men are required to wear white shirts and ties, and are not allowed to wear Dockers. The logical implication would seem to be that men are allowed to go nude from the waist down. So that’s something to keep in mind. It would also appear that women are permitted to visit teach topless. We must use these freedoms or we might lose them.

  38. I love this thread!

    The most outrageous suggestion I’ve seen so far is that none of us is worthy to critique brother Peterson or his suggestion.

  39. So, instead of a Friday Firestorm, we get a Saturday Saturnalia. It’s already been suggested we do a Monday Maelstrom, but I think a Tuesday Tempest-in-a-teacup followed by a Wednesday Windstorm and a Thursday Thrashing would round things out just right. Steve, are you writing this down?

  40. I think anyone named Levi already is biased when it comes to making clothing recommendations for church.

  41. Bruce R. McConkie says:

    I was just going to say [deleted by admin.]

  42. JNS, in your case those sideburns would have to be shaved as an extension of pubic hair.

    That’s just too good.

  43. But I believe in being good to guests, especially guests with a track record and expertise such as Levi’s. I don’t consider any of us [deleted]s up to the task of critiquing him.

    That does it. I will no longer read Dialogue unless dressed in a White shirt and tie.

  44. Guy: remember, no pants.

  45. Levi Peterson says:

    I heartily repent of my intemperate post. I know that if my stake president ordered Sunday best for home teaching, home teacher and his wife would come that way. But no way could I be rude to them.

  46. JNS: #45 Yikes!

  47. JNS,

    And what if my nose hair extends down to my chin and around to my sideburns?

    For some of us, these aren’t just hypothetical questions, you know . . .

  48. Since this stake president also prohibited facial hair, I want to know if he set the example by shaving off his eyebrows.

    Eyebrow removal doesn’t require shaving, Mark. The same effect can be achieved through the simple use of a blasting cap, a hammer (preferably new), and a driveway.

    Um, or at least, so I’ve


    . . .

  49. Guy #45, see my #38.

  50. err, “heard” should be ital, not quoted. my fingers must be unsteady. that wild irish rose, she sure has a kick . . .

  51. Almost 20 years ago, the non-LDS father of a family I was assigned to home teach told us we were welcome to visit as long as we did not wear ties. I am glad I did not live in the stake to which Brother Kirby refers so that I did not need to decide whether it was more important to “faith obedience” follow the white shirt and tie directive of my leader than to actually visit a family I was assigned. I suppose, though, I could have continued to visit them without a tie, but I simply would not have been able to count it as an official home teaching visit.

  52. JNS

    Got it

  53. Mark IV says:

    Kaimi, I’ve actually been on several scout campouts where facial hair removal was performed by 12 year old deacons. There is something about the the combination of matches, flames, and propane that can make eyebrows disappear quickly.

  54. Costanza says:

    Wow, editing BRM. You guys are brave.

  55. Mark E.P. says:

    Wow, editing BRMcConkie, you guys are brave.

    Well, Constanza, someone needs to do it. (see e.g., Mormon Doctrine)

  56. All of the above: I’ve chanced my mind; Given the ‘tastes’ of the above posters, we do need Dress Codes’!

  57. For once, my humor has been topped in such a way as to render it irrelevant. Thanks, one and all, for that experience.

    Now, just to drive Steve crazy, let me give a qualified and disclaimer-filled and hesitant half-defense (actually about one-sixteenth defense) of the underlying principle the SP butchered. It is easy to laugh at the caricature (as I did heartily), but . . .

    First, I responded to this same article in another forum, and I am going to do so differently here than I did there. I don’t think I am being inconsistent or hypocritical; I simply am answering from a different perspective.

    I have faced situations where I had to give personal counsel to an individual member that I would not request over the pulpit of the entire congregation. In some of those situations, I have told individual members something similar to what this SP appears to have told this individual member – essentially, “You need to quit treating Sacrament Meeting and Home Teaching so casually and treat it as an expression of your faith and love. If that means dressing up in what our culture considers “Sunday best”, do it – and do it immediately.” I would never differentiate by brand, and I have strong feelings about requiring attire for Sunday services and HT that are not required for entrance into the temple, but . . .

    We walk an incredibly fine line as ecclesiastical leaders when it comes to addressing issues of appearance. In most cases, it simply isn’t our business to make such fine distinctions that the overall principle is overridden by a Pharisaic system. However, it expressly is our responsibility to help members avoid the ever increasing tend toward irreverence in the way they approach worship and the sacred / divine. I don’t like what the SP said as a general “command” for all, but I understand it completely as an expression of someone’s perception of a real slippery slope. For that reason, and that reason alone, I am able to provide a partial defense – of the principle, not the actual statement.

    From a selfish standpoint, literally in the form of a request for help in how to address this type of issue when I inevitably have to address it again, how would each of you suggest I handle it – particularly as I counsel those who are asking for tighter standards of appearance? What is the actual principle, and how should I explain that principle? I really would appreciate any reasoned advice you can provide.

  58. Levi needs no defending,so just consider this a comment, not a defense. I wish you knew Levi better–knew his wicked sense of humor and his endless kindness. I have seen Levi return rudeness, even meanness, with kindness. I have never known him to be unkind. I have met only a handful of people as Christian as Levi in my life. He goes out of his way never to embarrass anyone. His suggestion was only consistent with his slight leaning to shock humor, a rather delightful trait. I laughed when I read it.

  59. DeconstructionistGirl says:

    How does “toddler-like” get edited while “pubic hair” makes it through?

  60. I doubt Kirby had to exaggerate any details for his column. In my Utah ward, on a normal sunday there are only two men over 12 who don’t wear a white shirt (I’m one). There are explicit instructions for “church attire” to be worn when doing any ward business (home teaching, blessings, collecting fast offerings, soliciting donations for boys programs).

    And, in the last year I’ve twice heard speakers (both women) refer to beards or moustaches as a sign of disobediene (full disclosure, I can’t sport a beard, but I wear a moustache).

  61. #60 – “Toddler-like” is insulting; “pubic hair”, in context, is hilarious – as is “sideburns” and “nose hair” in that same context, and my own kids’ reference to my “fur” no matter the context. Missing links appreciate it when other missing links are outed. Editing it would deprive me of joy.

  62. Kristine says:

    Deconstruction Girl,

    That was an old ‘nacle joke that refers to someone’s attempted rationale for the BYU facial hair policy. It didn’t get deleted because there’s nothing particularly rude about those words, and they weren’t directed at anyone.

  63. Kristine says:



  64. If they want to home teach my household, they need to, you know, actually come over once in awhile.

  65. Kevin Barney says:

    I see the church’s obsession with 1950s’ era IBM white shirts, suits and power ties as a textbook case of cultural conditioning, and not as some sort of eternal gospel principle. I freely admit I take a certain delight in tweaking people’s sensibilities by never appearing in such an outfit myself.

  66. #59: I did not know this until middle age: My people are Swedes from The Sanpete Valley. Perhaps Peterson’s people are too(?)It means Humor is a Cultural Trait, even a weapon, Much as Black Culture might use an ‘in your face’, or you see guilt in a Jewish Culture. Not to over do this,But I came to understand my father better when I learned it was in his ‘blood’,(and mine).
    It’s nice we have keep this Dress Code Thread fun. But I have seen ‘wars’ over this, at my office, and in my home (teenagers).

  67. Nick Literski says:

    Kirby wasn’t exaggerating. “Carl” is a fictional name, but I am well acquainted with the real individual who shared these directives with Kirby, as they had been given in his stake.

  68. I own only one white shirt and as a rule I do not wear it to church. Nearly every week my wife and I have a bet as to whether or not I’m the only one individual enough to actually wear a non-white shirt. I’ve lost from time to time but usually only because one of our members is a police officer and comes after work. The fact that I’m *gasp* don’t wear a white shirt, and *double gasp* am latino and *OMG I’m gonna faint!* have a beard and I stick out like ZZ Top at the symphony. You should see the looks I get.

    I was once approached about my appearance (which is far from shabby mind you. I wear nice slacks and nice shirts with nice ties and the beard neatly trimmed). I used the great quote “God will understand. If he doesn’t, then he is not God.” They looked like they didn’t understand a word I said.

  69. I second everything Molly says about Levi and, frankly, do stand in quiet awe of him. (And if BCC ever did treat Levi rudely, my awe would become quite public.)

    Nick’s probably right that Kirby’s story is true. It’s a rather appalling thing for a SP to do, but let me add something reverential about white shirts and ties.

    My husband gives priesthood blessings in whatever he happens to be wearing, and since his Church callings put him in some Churchy setting almost daily, that’s usually the white shirt and tie uniform–though he has given blessings in his “professor” uniform too. Darius Gray, my co-author, does not always wear a white shirt and tie in his daily life. In fact, he much prefers sweats or golf shirts. But if he is asked to give a blessing, he will ALWAYS change into a white shirt and tie before doing it. I’ve never grilled him on this. Remember that he’s a black man who joined the Church fourteen years before priesthood was available to him. He has a respect for it which I can’t really communicate on a blog. (Wouldn’t try.) It’s a beautiful thing to see him prepare in this way to exercise the priesthood which is so precious to him.

    As for me putting on a dress to go visiting teaching–I am writing this on the last day of June at 7:30 p.m. I saw one of my assigned sisters this month. I was wearing jeans. I will not find the time to see the other. And I’m still in jeans. I think it’s a dang good thing when I get my visiting teaching done at all.

  70. So, white shirts and ties constitute the uniform for men, but what about women? In work/church situations, it is not expected or desirable for women to dress in some kind of coresponding uniform every work day/Sunday. We are just supposed to look clean and feminine. It’s perfectly fine (not just passable) to dress in flip flops, no socks, a skirt, and t-shirt, and no one says anything about women taking their church membership lightly. But a woman who wear a conservative pantsuit is considered subversive. I’ve read that deep down, this double standard reveals a cultural assumption that women are less rational, are not to be taken as seriously as men, and are supposed to dress in a way that accents the their femaleness(high heels, coiffed hair), even when they are not engaged in sexual behavior. The male uniform does not accent maleness in the same way. Or does it? Can any anthropologists help me out here?

    I certainly do not want a SP to outline a strict uniform for women, but the rant about the male uniform always returns me to this cultural curiosity.

  71. StillConfused says:

    In my current ward I had to fight for over 6 months to get a home teacher (as a single mom, I am NEVER given home teachers without a serious fight and I am the one WITHOUT a priesthood holder in the home). He could come over in a toga for all I care. I honestly do not remember what the man was wearing. Now if only he wouldn’t wait until the last day of the month….

  72. #72: I am not an Anthropologist, but I do have a Degree in Anthropology. The book you want is “Dress for Success’ John Molloy. A classic.

  73. Kevin Barney says:

    Bob, Molloy’s Dress for Success was actually required reading on my mission!

  74. Kevin Barney says:

    Joanne, I’ve never quite understood why bare legs are privileged over a nice pants suit. It seems counterintuitive to me; apparently the concern is not one of modesty. (At least, personally, speaking as a heterosexual male, I would rather see a woman’s bare legs than pants-suited legs!) So it would seem that there is some other rationale behind the preference. I’m guessing that pants suits are perceived as “masculine” and as unnaturally gender-mixing or something. (“Unisex” used to be a bugaboo of a negative buzzword in the Church.) Just a guess though.

  75. While we’re discussing rules for home teaching, I would propose, “Don’t come to my house with a gun”

  76. #74: And let’s be open..he would recommend a White Shirt.

  77. Matt W. says:

    or “Don’t come to my house drunk, drugged, naked, selling pyramid schemes, or any combination of the above.”

    I guess I did go to Catholic School all my life, but I’ve never thought of the clothes I wear as having much to do with my individuality. While wearing the same clothes can express uniformity in the adult world, wearing different clothes to express individuality just seems like some trick marketing people play on stupid children (to me personally).

    I wear a white shirt to church because white shirts are cheaper than colored shirts. If you want to see my individuality, look at the frays, tears, stains, etc.

    [grammer and spelling errors added by admin]

  78. John Williams says:

    I think in 1996 Elder Packer gave a talk / devotioonal at BYU called “The Unwritten Order of Things” and in it he probably encouraged white shirts and ties.

    Frankly, although I tend to favor intellectual inquiry, etc., I think the “uniform of the priesthood” is the pinnacle of male fashion. White shirts with Ivy-league ties are where it’s at. Most people have bad taste, and there is no shortage of men who think that a dark maroon shirt is fashionable. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain, but don’t be afraid to conform when the conformists are right.

    I take a perverse pleasure in wearing a white shirt to church to send a fashion signal to those who like to wear a butt-ugly rainbow of beiges, yellows, seafoam greens, and dark blues to Church. Out of the kindess of my heart, I will admit that having bad taste is a forgivable sin.

  79. Have gone into lurker status, but am emerging to add that Pres. Packer has not been the only ones to mention white shirts and ties. Add Elder Holland and Pres. Faust to the list as well. Elder Ballard mentioned this as appropriate dress for sacrament meeting as well. (Other sightings of the idea come from Elder Christofferson, Marvin K. Gardner, N. Eldon Tanner). It’s also mentioned in several other church magazine articles. And it’s not all American culture either. I have seen it mentioned re: Tonga and So. America (off the top of my head). FWIW.

    I think the talk that gets to the heart of the matter most thoroughly is Elder Christofferson’s. FWthat’sW.

    I personally appreciate when our HTs come dressed in their Sunday best.

  80. “I freely admit I take a certain delight in tweaking people’s sensibilities by never appearing in such an outfit myself.”

    One of the benefits of the white shirt uniform, as with uniforms generally, is that they diminish class and economic distinctions. I don’t know which of the men in my ward wear the same white shirt every single week, but if they wore the same plaid, striped or maroon shirt every week people would notice. The variety of dress we’re accustomed to in the west is a luxury. I wrote a a few more views of white shirts here.

  81. Aaron Brown says:

    Matt — I sort of like your absence-of-social-signaling rationale, but let’s remember that it’s really easy to flaunt one’s wealth by wearing a white shirt. Faconnable has some really gorgeous $220 white shirts in their Albert Goldberg collection.

    Aaron B

  82. Aaron Brown says:

    I am wearing buttless pants and chaps to Church tomorrow.

    Aaron B

  83. The real deal is when this SP is released and a new one called it won’t matter anymore. This type of stuff is simply the opinion of the current leadership. The new SP will have his own pet policy.

  84. Oh, and Aaron Brown, I wish you were in my ward ;)

  85. Are you guys being delete happy? I could have sworn I saw my comment after posting it. If you deleted it, why did you?

  86. That came out sounding more curt than I wanted it to…just was surprised to come and see no comment. I apologize if there was something wrong in providing links about this topic of white shirts, etc. I figure it’s worth at least knowing what has been said about it. ????

  87. I had an Annie Hall phase in my early twenties during which I wore often white shirts and ties to church. And sometimes pants.(Come to think of it, maybe it’s time to resurrect that phase just long enough to sew up my lifetime exclusion from Relief Society presidencies.) But if I got to be Levi Peterson’s home teacher, I’d be so excited and honored I’d happily abide by any dress and grooming standards he saw fit to impose on strangers within his gates. I’d even sign his honor code.

  88. I would have told the stake president to stick it. I’m the one with the keys for my quorum. I tell them to dress the part, but I don’t care if their shirt is white or not.

  89. Stephanie says:

    Re: 71, once I went to the temple with my parents and when my mother realized I was wearing pants, she was horrified. These were very nice dress pants and I wore them with heals and a white collared shirt. My mom was worried they wouldn’t let me in. Of course everyone stared, but I felt fine. And then on the way out, I saw a woman coming in wearing a plaid shirt and denim skirt with clogs, and I doubt anyone started at her, despite the fact that she looked like she was going to work in the garden!

    Regarding the white shirt thing, I find it strange that a boy turning twelve wouldn’t already own a white shirt! Of course, half of the boys in the Primary of the ward I just moved out of don’t ever look dressed-up at all, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I think it looks bad when boys come to church wearing plaid shirts and cargo pants. What they wear to church should be different from what they wear to school. The same goes for the girls. I realize after a certain age the parents can’t control what the kids wear, but when they’re young, they certainly can.

    It’s true that the white-shirt norm is rather arbitrary, but I think it’s important to note that as mortals we are quite limited in the ways that we can show our devotion to our Father in Heaven. Considering that we live in a highly iconic society, it seems natural that on the Sabbath we would dress in a way that shows our respect for what we are doing (renewing covenants).

  90. Kristine says:

    It’s pretty hard to please the self-appointed dress and grooming police at the temple, no matter what you do. On my wedding day, I made the grave mistake of wearing a (conservatively cut) red dress to the temple. An older woman, who may or may not have meant to whisper, said to her husband with a gasp “oh! how could they let that girl in dressed in red like some brazen whore?!”

    I think maybe Elder Bednar’s talk applies here to the active members who think themselves arbiters of the appropriate: if we inadvertently offend them, it’s their fault for looking for offense.

    (ha! And I thought there would never be any useful applications of that talk :))

  91. Mark B. says:

    The real sad thing is the silly unwritten rule about overdressing in hot weather so we can crank up the air conditioners at church, wasting money and the world’s resources, and freezing the women who haven’t managed to overdress as the men have.

  92. Elouise says:

    A note about Levi, his humor, and its detection, or not:

    Sometime in the 1970’s, there was a panel discussion at BYU on some feminist issue of importance; it might even have been the ERA (before the church leadership came out against that). Christine Durham, already on the state Supreme Court, was the speaker for and Levi Peterson was the opposition.

    Levi was, as always, charming, witty, informative, bringing in his years as a Western man living, to hear him tell it, under the civilizing influence of many traditional women. As he went forward in his talk, he became a bit more conservative and right-winged, moment by moment. The colleagues I was sitting with started to stir in their seats, and frown. Yea, and even to murmur. I assured them that this was Levi being tongue-in-cheek. But they grew ever more restive. “He MEANS that!” they insisted. “No, no,” I whispered. Levi never tipped his hand, never went too far so that his parody was obvious. Even after the panel had ended, he didn’t crack a smile that gave his performance away.

    Some time later, when I insisted privately that he admit what he had done, he said in effect, that he had no other choice. The event was set up as a panel. He had been asked to represent the conservative view. (By whom, I cannot imagine.)
    So he had assumed a persona, a voice of the sort he had known all his life, a stance he was familiar with and could represent accurately and with that very dry, subtle wit we are so fortunate to know and love.

  93. Matt W. says:

    Re: 89

    slight threadjack- but I remember a recent letter from the FP read in our Stake that said that the Temple was not to turn away anyone no matter how they were dressed, and reminded that members that people may be coming to the temple directly from work. Apparantly the local Temple had been turning people away for not wearing sunday best and it had gone all the way to the top. (Or perhaps this was an everywhere thing..?)

  94. Greg B. says:

    #80: “One of the benefits of the white shirt uniform, as with uniforms generally, is that they diminish class and economic distinctions.”

    Except that the white shirt is–in the West–traditionally a class statement as the uniform of clerks and others in jobs that do not require physical labor.

  95. Levi Peterson says:

    Thanks to my friends for their kind remarks.

    A further rumination on my own home teaching couple. Each month my wife and I commonly go out on a weeknight evening with them for an inexpensive meal. That counts as home teaching. We have an excellent relationship with them. I gave them a copy of The Backslider and of my autobiography. They read them and we talked about them later. On our evenings out, we don’t have a prayer and we don’t have a lesson. We discuss a lot of Gospel principles indirectly. Don’t all good Mormons do that in ordinary, everyday conversation with other good Mormons?

    An addendum now to Elouise’s (# 92) disclosure of my shellacking in a debate with Christine Durham, an attorney at the moment, later justice of the Utah Supreme Court. The issue of the debate was whether Mormon women should opt for motherhood and a career or whether they should forego a career entirely and devote themselves entirely to motherhood. The creators of the program couldn’t find anyone to take the latter position. So, for a paltry $200, I undertook a task that I had little stomach for, being, long before this event, a feminist in my values. Needless to say, I was totally bested by Christine.

  96. Antonio Parr says:

    I attended a High Priest meeting recently in which the teacher — a former Bishop and former member of the Stake Presidency — lamented the excessively formal nature of the interactions of Latter-Day Saints, wondering whether we could get past some of the facades by greeting each other by our first names (instead of “Brother so-and-so”). I think that he is on to something that is relevant to the “white shirt and tie” hometeaching mode.

    While I find our white shirt/tie mode to be somehow appropriate for Sunday meetings (no doubt a result of past cultural conditioning), I nevertheless would prefer that my home teacher “come as he is”. Without the costume, I think we are more inclined to interact in a manner that approaches genuine friendship, and who among us has too many friends?

  97. Antonio Parr says:

    (As for the previous post be Levi Peterson — please forgive this off-topic expression of gratitude: “A Christian by Yearning” is one of the great essays of Mormonism — I am glad that you are “out there”, white shirt and tie or not.)

  98. Margaret,

    The reason I find your story inspiring (#70) even though I am in Kevin’s camp (#21) is that I know Darius Gray’s practice of changing into a white shirt is motivated by a tremendous respect for the priesthood. If someone feels that this is a way they want to show their respect, I am all for it, and I am touched by it.

    However, telling people that they must/should change into a white shirt is a different story. I don’t think requiring a white shirt will significantly increase respect or create respect. I don’t think a white shirt is, per se, a required part of respect. Once again, the gospel is a stress on proper motivation, and we risk becoming whited sepulchres if we mandate this kind of behavior.

  99. Kevin Barney says:

    Antonio #96, I personally call my local church leaders by their first names, including my bishops. Others might perceive me as being disrespectful, but they universally have expressed to me their appreciation for this practice.

    I’m on the Stake Public Affairs Committee under a counselor in the Stake Presidency, a wonderful man from Ghana. Everyone else calls him President X all the time, but I call him Thomas. He told me that he really appreciates me calling him by his first name, because he kind of feels like he doesn’t have any friends any more, everyone bows and scrapes to him so much these days.

  100. #99: Note to self: No bows or Scrapes to Kevin Barney.

  101. Kevin Barney says:

    That’s right, Bob. I would definitely want people to call me “Kevin.” I don’t have to worry though; since I don’t wear the white shirt uniform, it’s unlikely I’ll ever be in a position where people will be trying to overwhelm me with deference.

  102. My guess is that Kirby turned the original story broadside to present a better target.

    In any case, there have been times when I have felt that I should wear more formal clothes for certain events – giving a blessing, etc. It can be part of “creating a sacred space” that got some favorable comments here when spoken by Brother Bushman about the temple.

    Stake presidents and other priesthood leaders think broadly and deeply about improving home teaching. I can imagine a SP recommending that his stake members try something new, perhaps for a while. He didn’t ask me to do it, nor anyone else here, so I’m not going to knock it. I hope it had the desired effect.

  103. Regarding #96 –

    Exactly my hopes and ideals — that we drop all the costume and artifice and make the hometeaching program less formulaic and MORE GENUINE.

    Minutes ago, we just had our hometeachers leave. Both were wearing white shirts and ties and their visit was on the first of the month. They consistently check the box “and visit us” monthly, but their robotic approach has never approached friendship. Rather their primordial concern is simply that they come by and visit us to share a message.

    They haven’t missed a month in 2 years and yet their lessons can be tedious, boring, ill-prepared etc. They never strike up any conversation at Church with us, except when they have a concern to come by and schedule a visit with us.

    And yet they keep their white shirts neatly ironed, and steadfastly visit us with clock-like precision.

    So sorry if the tone of this message has some sharp edges, but we spend way too much time at Church focusing on the wrong things (like proper HT dress attire).

    Let’s overhaul hometeaching and make is more genuine and less artificial and forget whether the proper clothing protocol is adhered to as proscribed by the eclessiastical police.

  104. StillConfused says:

    Conspiracy Theory with financial motivations: Could it be that this pronounement is by someone who has a financial interest in Clorox? After all, classy but colored dress shirts would mean less bleach. And notice that the Docker brand name is specifically spelled out. Could it be that the pronouncer is short selling the stock of Dockers (or whatever company it is that makes the Dockers brand)?

  105. tmajors says:

    “wondering whether we could get past some of the facades by greeting each other by our first names (instead of “Brother so-and-so”).”

    I recently started re-attending Sacrament Meetings after being inactive for about ten years. The first person that came up to introduce themselves I said “Hi I’m Brother Majors” like I would have done 10 years ago. He said “I’m Bob” (can’t remember his name, sorry Bob”. I was a bit taken aback but each person since has been introduced by either first name or first last name. I don’t remember one person being introduced as Brother or Sister Last Name.

    Honestly it has seemed more comfortable that way and more personal instead of distancing each other behind the title Brother and Sister.

    Oh and I don’t wear a white shirt, and I do wear dockers thank you. My wife wears pants. Nobody has said anything or even looked at us cross-eyed yet.

  106. #105:That was Kevin, trying to get overwhelmed with deference. I want to go back to all black and a beard.

  107. [and BCC accused APoF of censorship when we went to full moderation to prevent porn links coming through…;)]

    Mark IV #35–
    I just almost spit lemonade all over my computer. Thanks for the (much needed) best laugh I’ve had in who knows how long…

  108. Antonio Parr says:

    Further thought about greeting each other by our first name instead of “Brother so-and-so”. While at the BYU, I had the great honor to be taught by David Yarn, one of the most humble and Christ-like individuals that I have ever encountered. He would greet students by “Brother” or “Sister”, but instead of last names, would use their first name: “Brother Ed”; “Sister Anne”; Brother Joe”; etc.

    It always seemed warm and deeply personal, and was music to these ears. (Come to think of it, the early Saints referred to Joseph Smith as “Brother Joseph” and not “Brother Smith”. When did we start using last names?)

  109. Elouise says:

    RE: “Brother/Sister.” I can’t resist this; I just can’t. And if I’ve told this tale before (can’t imagine I have on this site), do excuse the repetition.

    Before the Maeser Building at BYU was so handsomely remodeled, the upper floor was a series of little cubicles housing some of the English faculty. One day, a student was leaving the small office of a particularly strong-minded and outspoken professor. [We shall call this professor Mary Jane Ironsides.] “Thank you, Sister Ironsides,” he said. After the student was well out of earshot, the professor said, to any colleagues who cared to hear, “I’d rather be SWORN at than called ‘Sister.’!”

    Brother Wise, next cubicle down, stepped outside his office and obligingly said, “BLAST you, Mary Jane!”

    Well, it loses a little in the censoring. But you get the idea.
    And may I add a quick off-thread recommendation? I was much moved by discussion instigated by McQ on Suffering and how to show one’s compassion for those in great pain. An absolutely excellent book on the subject is titled THE ETIQUETTE OF ILLNESS: WHAT TO SAY WHEN YOU CAN’T FIND THE WORDS, by Susan P. Halpern. (Ignore the word “etiquette.” It doesn’t quite fit.) Halpern is a longtime psycho-therapist and social worker, founder of the New York Cancer Help program, counseling extensively with people with cancer throughout the U.S. and in Europe. She has serious and recurring cancer herself. This book is no easy revisiting of the obvious, but a careful, thorough, sensitive and detailed look at how to talk to those in difficult straits, and how to ask for or politely turn down help when you’re in those straits yourself. I found this book of great help, and would recommend it especially to those whose calling or work requires them to find words when there seem to be no words. (Amazon has good used copies for a few dollars plus S&H.)

  110. Spencer says:

    I call shenanigans on post #103. There’s no way home teachers from this church were out doing visits on July 1st.

    Where’s my broom?

  111. Just you wait! Draconian rules for women may be just around the corner.

    A week ago Saturday’s Church News had an article on modesty. In addition to using the standard of avoiding too tight or too revealing clothing, the article made a quasi-official plea not to wear denim or tee shirts to Church. However, the article also claimed to be promoting an overall standard of sensible and appropriate.

    As a Church employee I took this on last week. This is part of what I said—

    “It is this standard of sensible and appropriate that I would like to address on an issue of concern and interest to probably several thousand women along the Wasatch Front.

    The Corporation of the President seems pretty firm, if not draconian at times, about its policy of women wearing nylons year round. In weather as hot and oppressive as it has been of late (and is likely to be for the next month and a half) this policy passes neither appropriate nor sensible criteria. It may not even be safe for some women, especially those who need to spend time outdoors in the afternoon, because they are either walking or taking public transportation from work. While it is true that most of these women wear knee-highs, some cannot because of circulation problems, and because of these problems may even be at higher risk. This is not an issue of which the personnel office could possibly be unaware, yet they have repeatedly chosen to ignore the concerns of numerous women (indeed most, if they ever bothered to check).

    These rules were probably put in place by persons who move seamlessly from their air conditioned homes to their air conditioned cars to their covered parking to their air conditioned offices. I doubt even Rasband, the expert repeatedly quoted in the article, would support the virtues of nylons in oppressively hot or humid weather to the national audiences (GMU, Oprah, Today Show) which are used as her credentials as a popular fashion maven.

    Won’t somebody, somewhere strike a blow for good sense?”

    I got a terse answer back, that there was no intention of changing.

    I would like to add, that women are commonly reminded that in the system the guys have to wear white shirts, ties and suit coats. However, I know from personal observation, on every oppressively hot day, that most of the guys shed their coats and ties about as soon as they are off Church property. It is a bit hard to do that with nylons, even on 100 days such as we have been having and which are forecast for the next week plus.

    I have wondered if such policy even hastened Sister Hinckley’s demise. She seemed to go downhill pretty fast after her return from hot and humid Africa. I’m sure she wore nylons virtually all the time. However it is probably also true that it never would have occurred to her to question the rules. How ironic, if this is even partly right.

  112. MikeInWeHo says:

    The SP banned Dockers. If that isn’t divinely inspired leadership, nothing is.

    There will be no Dockers in the Celestial Kingdom.

  113. I heart Marjorie.

  114. Julie M. Smith says:

    “It is a bit hard to do that with nylons”

    But I bet if enough women did, the policy would be quickly changed. :)

  115. #106 women too: All black, seven layers of wool, from floor to a buttoned to chin. And 23in waist. #105: any other non-brother/sister Wards?

  116. Mike: Someone needed to finally say it.

  117. #111:OSHA has some dress standards for work. I.E. hot & cold times, tennis shoes when carrying large files…etc. My ‘girls’ knew then and got their tennis shoes and jeans.

  118. “Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.” I really like Joseph, warts and all.

    My SP is a wonderfully humble man. To meet him in the hall and talk with him, you wouldn’t think he is a SP – except for the amazing spirit he exudes. (Reminds me of SWK in that sense.) He almost never signs e-mails using his official title (first name or just first initial), and he almost never introduces himself as Pres. X. The only exceptions are when he is acting explicitly in his position as SP in a situation that requires emphasizing that position – and those instances are few and far between. I have heard him ask someone to wear “the uniform” when he has called that person to a specific calling, but I can’t imagine him asking that of everyone.

    Finally, I went to the temple yesterday with the youth from our ward. (Got to baptize a daughter who was there for the first time. Amazing experience!) I wore a gray shirt and suit, and I got no comments from anyone – those who know me and those who don’t. I wouldn’t wear that combination in my current calling, but it looks better on me than a white shirt does – so I wore it to the temple as an expression of my love for the place. I wanted to look my best – not measured in dollars spent (both shirt and suit are discount store cheap) but in how I feel when I wear that combination.

  119. re nylons, #111, #114:

    My mission required sisters to wear nylons to church year-round, even in August when the humidity was high and temperature was well above 100 (and this was in a land in which air conditioning was rare). The members thought we were crazy. In one branch we always ran into a nearby field the instant church was over, ripped off our knee-his, and stuffed them in our bags before trekking home under the mid-day sun.

  120. Ardis Parshall says:

    Well, I work as an outside patron in the church archives most days. Not being a church employee, I could wear shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops if I wanted to. Or jeans, or muu-muus, or a Halloween costume. However, I always wear a dress, and I always wear hose. Every day. (I do, however, wear sneakers — I have to walk, a lot, with a heavy load on my shoulder. I wear heels when I walk to church, but that’s the only time I’m willing to walk that way anymore.)

    The benefits of dressing like a professional woman, and especially of dressing like the employees of the place where I am a daily guest, are incalculable. I wouldn’t dream of losing those advantages — formality, professionalism, and looking like A Serious Person go a very long way in my world.

  121. 113. I heart Marjorie.

    Ditto . . . except for the macabre speculation at the end of her comment. Goodness. That’s every bit as inappropriate as the Delbert Stapley letter you cited earlier, J. (about how Presidents who support Civil Rights met untimely ends.)

    “If you disagree with me, you’re not just wrong. If you disagree with me, you’re going to DIE! Mwahahaha!”

  122. Mark IV says:

    Well, I can’t speak to nylons, but I’m reminded of the time I gained a testimony that my mission president was truly inspired. I arrived in the mission field in August and it was hotter than the devil’s abode. A week later we had a zone conference in an un-air-conditioned building. My MP stood at the pulpit and asked us to sustain him in his calling and to commit to follow his example by the show of hands. The voting was unanimous in the affirmative, so he made a dramatic show of removing his jacket and telling us to do likewise. The no jacket policy remained in effect through September, and I have loved him ever since.

    The problem that arises when somebody tries to spell out a strict dress code for church is that it is so ridiculously limited, even on the Wasatch front. A stake president in Salt Lake City who doesn’t have anything better to do with his time than draft business suit/white shirt and ties rules needs to take a Sunday off and drive 45 minutes to the east and attend services in rural Summit county. To the saints there, Sunday best means a cowboy cut jacket, nice shirt with pearl snap buttons, a bolo tie, and pointy-toe roach stompers.

  123. This is my first attempt at a post here, and I came to it by a link from somewhere else, and the overwhelming feeling I have, having read all of this thread, is sadness over the amount of time and energy spent not just here but all over the church, on sad little issues. I love the church, I love the saints, some of them don’t dress very well, and some don’t smell very good either, but that there is room in Christ’s church for me as well as them is pretty sweet.

    And I wear a cheap tshirt to church most weeks because they don’t need ironing, I’ve got lots of colours, they look fine with a skirt and cardigan and beads, and I’d rather wear long enough skirts that my legs don’t show anyway. If I don’t have to think about my clothes, I can think about what I really went to church for.

  124. NoNameNedra says:

    The SP’s actions sadden, but don’t surprise me. After all, President Hinckley has spent time in more than one sermon expounding on the evils of tattoos and multiple ear piercings. Maybe the SP is trying to “follow the prophet” a little too closely. We all know leaders like that. As a college President, Elder Bednar said and did similar things (as did Sister Bednar). So, please–let’s go easy on the stake president.

  125. Steve Evans says:

    “sadness over the amount of time and energy spent not just here but all over the church, on sad little issues.”

    Welcome to the Bloggernacle! Such is the essence of our community.

  126. Wow comment 125.

    I typically go HT’ing in either jeans or shorts and sandals. I simply do not care. On my mission I tried a new tracting approach and went tracting in jeans and t shirts. We actually got in more doors but only did it once.

    Its been my exp that most unreasonable stake directives like this get followed for about 2 weeks and then everybody ignores it and slowly it fades from memory. No reason to make a stink.

    I am 100% supportive of asking the YM to either were a jacket or a white shirt and tie to pass the sacrament. At least they are not wearing a robe and a bishops miter….

  127. Mark IV says:


    All this rebellion and second-guessing of your leaders causes me to wonder about you. My guess is that you are probably dealing with some sort of unresolved transgression, probably of a sexual nature. ‘Fess up and repent already, before you go into complete apostacy.

  128. #125: Wow! Can you really image a SP up there giving talks on big issues! We’d be back to BY,Doctrines, the Fate of Man and the World! Or how about a SP with a Blog?

  129. Steve Evans says:

    Bob, every time my SP speaks it’s on a big issue. He rarely speaks as to incidentals of worship.

  130. He rarely speaks as to incidentals of worship

    That’s what blogs are for.

  131. The benefits of dressing like a professional woman, and especially of dressing like the employees of the place where I am a daily guest, are incalculable. I wouldn’t dream of losing those advantages — formality, professionalism, and looking like A Serious Person go a very long way in my world.

    What amazes me is that “looking like a serious person” is so different from one profession to another. My mom always wore skirts and nice blouses to work (she was an accountant), but if I were to wear such a uniform as a scientist I think I’d be taken less seriously, especially as a woman. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-European female scientist wear nylons, and makeup is almost absent among female scientists as well. There are some few people who dress up for work, teaching or conferences (though the definition of “dressed up” in geology includes dockers–sorry Mike!–and certainly includes dress pants for women), but I think the dress code in science is almost anti business attire. Putting on a white, button-up shirt and tie, or a nice skirt and blouse, makes one look corporate, or like one perhaps spends too much time thinking about appearances and too little about science.

  132. Mark,

    You are right. I have the bishop on speaker right now confessing.

    What is funny is that I learned my attitude about unreasonable stake directives from my bishop in multiple PEC mtgs where he would make a similar comment.


    “This stake directive seems a little off eh bretheren? No worries. In a couple of months everybody will forget about it anyway so lets just carry on.”

    To put it mildly there is a big difference between a Stake issuing a directive and then actually having ward leadership implement it. When the instructions make sense its still pretty hard to actually implement changes to programs in the first place.

  133. CS Eric says:

    You take a weekend off, and you miss all the fun. My wife and I were talking with our bishop a couple of weeks ago about the fact that I rarely wear a white shirt to church. His comment to me was that I look good in blue.

    Last week I went straight from work to my temple recommend interview. I wore a dark grey shirt (nearly black), and have had a beard for about 12 years now. He didn’t say a word–he just warned me that my recommend would only be good for a few weeks, since we are switching to the new bar code recommends soon

  134. john scherer says:

    Re #38 (I know I’m late)
    “The logical implication would seem to be that men are allowed to go nude from the waist down”

    That particular fashion statement, I believe, is known as “Porky Pigging”.

  135. Russell says:

    Interesting. On the prayer issue, I have seen priesthood holders give both invocation and benediction. And I’m here in the midst of Mormondom at happy valley.

  136. I have been known to ask my home teachers if they’d put my garbage out on the curb if I’m going to be out of town (and count that as HTing). One even offered to mow my lawn in exchange for 2 months’ credit. That would be hard to do in a white shirt.

  137. FWIW, I would FAR rather have a bishop take a stand against coloring books, crayons, cheerios, cell phones and (loud) conversations in the chapel than non-white shirts and dockers. IMO, these types of actions are far more indicative of spiritual attitudes and reverence – and, most importantly, are much more disruptive of others’ attempts to focus their worship. I can worship exactly as I choose even if Bro. John is wearing a magenta shirt and polka dot tie, but if he is talking about NASCAR / particle physics or texting his friend or telling his kids to quit writing on the pew . . .

  138. I think the hardest to swallow part of the cultural dress code Kirby reports on is its inflexibility. Perhaps this stake, being in Utah and therefore geographically small, is confined to a small enough area that the SP knows that everyone can afford the clothing he is proscribing. Likewise, he must know that he doesn’t have to deal with many new converts coming from other traditions that don’t understand this uniform.

    Here in NYC, we don’t quite have the luxury of restricting dress so strictly. We have members from all classes and from many different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. Many times we are fortunate if ANY of the few young men in some wards and branches even have white shirts. In my experience some of them simply don’t understand the “respect” that this uniform is supposed to impart. And occasionally we see some that view this uniform with suspicion — as a symbol of repressive upper classes or as a “white man’s uniform.”

    I agree that it is foolish to claim that clothing is devoid of any meaning. It clearly does have meaning — and new meanings for clothing are invented regularly (if not, why would anyone purchase clothing for a particular “look”? – why would hip-hop have its own style, just like hippies and 1950s IBM businessmen before them?)

    But in today’s world, I think there are few places that are so culturally homogeneous that a proscription such as this will work. Hopefully this SP has a thorough understanding of those he is leading and knows that this policy will be successful.

    I know it wouldn’t work in my stake. Too many new converts (and probably some older converts) wouldn’t come back to church because of proscriptions like this. And many couldn’t afford to comply, even if they wanted to.

  139. Ray,

    If you banned the kid items in your post my Sac mtg would be half empty with all the parents in the hall with their kids or home. I would be in the hall chasing toddlers for half the meeting.

    All that kid noise in a typical suburban ward is the sound of a demographically alive congregation.

  140. Yeah, I know, bbell. We have six kids, and I have been the chaser on more than one occasion. My point, badly stated, is that there are things that really can be disruptive of worship – but the color of one’s shirt and the brand of one’s pants aren’t among them.

  141. My #58 notwithstanding, I want to echo Kent’s comment. I taught Seminary in an Asian branch in the greater Boston area many years ago. It was about 75% youth (YM, YW & Prim), and most of the teenagers were the only members in their families. They were some of the most amazing people I have met in my entire life, and not one of the boys showed up at church in a white shirt and tie. To even suggest it would have been preposterous, and to offer to buy them for the kids would have been condescending and offensive.

    In fact, the Teachers’ Quorum President was the leader of a local gang (allowed to not participate in illegal activities after his baptism as long as he didn’t try to leave the gang; dead if he tried to leave). He often passed the sacrament in his only good shoes (tennis shoes), his cleanest pants (jeans) and his best shirt (emblazoned with the gang symbol). He carried a spirit with him that was palatable, and his participation in that ordinance almost guaranteed a deeply spiritual experience for the congregation.

    I wish every member and leader of the church could have seen and felt what I saw and felt there in that branch. I think that, although I still support the principle of dressing to show respect and reverence, this conversation would be irrelevant to a large degree if everyone in the church knew this young man.

  142. John Mansfield says:

    A guy gets set apart to preside the stake, and then he starts thinking he has some business teaching people in the stake how to carry out priesthood and church funtions. Where does he get such an idea?

  143. Steve Evans says:

    Mansfieldy, it’s insane, innt.

  144. CS Eric says:

    I’ve read this thread several times, and I keep asking myself, which is harder for this SP to do, convince the men to go home teaching, or to convince them to do it while wearing white shirts and ties?

  145. Jumping straight down to comment…

    Way back in my BYU days a friend had an EQ president in his student ward declare that if you weren’t wearing a tie you couldn’t count it as home teaching.

    My friend and his companion dutifully knotted their ties around their heads like headbands and went home teaching like that for the rest of the year.

  146. One aspect of this article that hasn’t been addressed directly yet is the SP’s apparent perception of HT as something that can be done always in a shirt and tie. That, in and of itself, is instructive.

  147. Being the bishop of an urban ward puts me at odds with most of what is suggested above. A husband of a member decided to consider coming to church only because a brother in our who had in that year been baptized, ordained and elder, and had taken his wife to the temple, also played in an Iron Maiden tribute band. He had a neatly kept pony tail at church, and solemnly passes the sacrament in his colored shirts.

    I also don’t ask our young men to cut their afros, remove their corn rows, or refuse them entry to class until they remove their earrings. Then know they are out a bit out of sync, but they also save up and buy their own suits as they begin to graduate.

    Why must what doesn’t matter matter so very much to some?

  148. Thanks, Dave, for your perspective. I loved your last question.

  149. I can only say that I am appalled when I hear stories like this. Suffice it to say that when I served as bishop, we encouraged our YM to wear white shirts and ties, but I never excluded the boys who showed up in a nice sweater with no collar, or a blue denim shirt. I always felt that it was more important that they got the chance to serve than it was how they dressed. And as to dockers, that would have excluded half the elders in our ward, and a good portion of the high priests.

    As stated, there are so many other things to be concerned about, and I agree that it’s more important to get home teaching done than what is worn.

    Maybe it works for that SP, but it wouldn’t work in our stake (Puget Sound).

  150. One other note regarding facial hair. When I served as bishop, there were six bishops in the stake with mustaches, including myself. One of them now serves as SP, one as 1st counselor to the SP, and I serve on the HC. All of us have shaved our mustaches, but all for the same reason we grew them in the first place: it made us look older.

  151. StillConfused says:

    My friend and I went to see the Joseph Smith movie at the Visitors Center last night (Sunday night). I was still in my church clothes (though I will admit that *censored* will freeze over before any nylon touches my legs). We came out and there was a man waiting to go in who was wearing a black wife beater t-shirt and a-bit-too-small black shorts that nicely exposed his tattoo collection. And I thought Cool. I am glad no one denied him the opportunity to go see the movie.

  152. To be fair SC, they were probably all too afraid to ask him to leave.

  153. StillConfused says:

    He was a pretty intimidating dude. Too bad we were leaving as he was arriving because I would have been interested to see his face upon leaving the movie.

  154. john scherer (#134): Thank you for your fine comment.

  155. I laughed so hard when I read Kirby’s column. It doesn’t really surprise me however. I’ve noticed this coming… I grew up in Utah and didn’t own a white shirt until I went on my mission. Sure there were people who wore them but it wasn’t mandatory nor was it a big deal if you didn’t wear a white shirt.

    I started noticing white shirts proliferating in different congregations I attended in the early to mid 90’s. However in the last few years the white shirt seems to be almost a requirement within the church culture. So after one of our bishopric councilors extolled the virtues of the “priesthood uniform” from the pulpit a few weeks ago I’m not surprised by this Stake President’s actions. I have white shirts and colored shirts and I wear both to church. When I wear the colored shirts I am literally the only male over the age of 12 not wearing a white shirt. I do get funny looks(or maybe it’s my imagination) but it doesn’t bother me.

    To me what’s most important is not the color of shirt that I’m wearing but that I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. Sometimes I think Mormon’s get caught up in things that really aren’t important in the grand scheme of things.

    My favorite lines from Kirby’s column follow:

    “Today, overfed and underhunted, not only is it important that we get to church, but also that we arrive in uniform.
    But I do wonder about the real possibility of becoming a bit too busy with things that don’t really matter. It’s one thing to ask people to dress nice for church and another to start holding color swatches against their clothing.
    It wasn’t always this way. Once, starving and chased by mobs, it didn’t make any difference what Mormons wore to church so long as we managed to get there.”

    Oh the truth of those words.

  156. Natasha says:

    On my mission, a member of a bishopric turned away our one investigator because of the way he was dressed. No one ever joined that ward, despite a healthy baptismal rate in surrounding areas.

    Man looketh upon the outward appearance; the Lord looketh upon the heart.

  157. Devil’s advocate here –

    Any kid who can afford a $150 pair of basketball shoes can afford to buy a white shirt.

  158. queno,
    That’s what the neighboring bishop in one of my wards said, too. Problem was, we had a new member who was dressed in a t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes. He worked as a karate instructor (and lost a number of students when he joined the church); he needed the t-shirt and tennis shoes as his work uniform, 6 days each week.

    So basically, no, just because a person (kid or not) can afford a $150 pair of tennis shoes (that they will use every day) emphatically does not mean that they can afford a white shirt that they will use once a week.

  159. I do not believe there are any requirements in the Church handbook as to dress code for sacrament participation (passing, preparing, blessing, etc.). I specifically asked our Bishop when I was made the YM pres. what his preference was and said that a white shirt and tie was prefered but not required.

    As such, my blue shirt is often in my rotation. The Bishop has never said anything to me, but one of his councelors often makes comments directed at me, but never made directly to me.

    I’m sure the counselor would not like it if I told him that I found it ironic that someone in an outdated suit and a white shirt that is too small and a tie that is way too short was trying to tell me that my blue shirt was somehow unacceptable to the Lord. But the truth is I couldn’t care less what he or anyone else wears to church, and I want the same consideration.

  160. I know I am coming late to this thread, but for what it is worth…

    I was honored to be asked twice this past weekend to give blessings for healing of the sick. On Saturday morning I was called and I wore my shorts and a polo shirt. When I got to the home my recently returned missionary partner wore…shorts and a polo shirt (with flip flops!). The later time, on Sunday, which was for my father’s home teachee, I actually wore a white shirt…albeit a short sleeved linen shirt that was not intended to be worn in the same room as a tie. My father wore a t-shirt…philistine.

    My worthiness to perform a priesthood ordinance could no doubt be open to discussion, but I really don’t think the idea that “church clothes” must be worn to perform priesthood duties is even worthy of the time it would take to try and defend. I received a call and was told the sister in question was upset and I arrived at her house within 15 minutes to hopefully provide some meager comfort to the best of my limited ability. This sums up about the best the priesthood has to offer, and it is truly priceless. Barring something that would actual distract from the spirit, and not wearing pants might qualify in that category, anything goes is my book.

    On a related note, when made my father was made Bishop, he was told to wear a white shirt and dark suit. That Sunday he wore a pink shirt, tie and sportcoat. After the meeting I pointed out to him that he had forgotten the request, and he replied, “Who says I forgot?” He was an excellent Bishop according to all of the stats used to measure such things (for example attendance and home teaching saw signficant, even radical improvements) but short lived, apparently he was something of a rebel. I learned my lesson. I now wear pink shirts for the same reason others wear garlic to ward of vampires.

  161. Kevin Barney says:

    Natasha, when I was on my mission we had an investigator who came to church wearing a very elegant pants suit. She gets not 10 steps inside the chapel when a guy takes it upon himself to inform her that she was dressed inappropriately for church. Without a word she turned on her heel, walked out, and we never saw her again.

    That was as close as I’ve ever come to punching a guy out right there in the chapel.

  162. Costanza says:

    Kevin, I envy your restraint.

  163. Not me, I say deck the guy! That kind of behavior just cannot be condoned. A punch in the foyer could serve as a warning to generations of potential busy-body clothing nazis. BYU could use several such well-placed punches.

  164. At least verbal punches – Not to start a threadjack (please), but there was an investigator in church on Sunday who still comes after being told (in another state years ago) that she wasn’t light enough to make it to the Celestial Kingdom. She is Black, and this was post-1978. She has reached the point where she can dismiss it as one bigot in a sea of loving siblings, but if I had heard that statement, I might have lost it.

    I once heard a very humble bishop correct someone directly and forcefully in Sunday School when he said something that was not in harmony with the principles of the Gospel. He said it as gently as he could, but he didn’t pull any punches.

    I believe strongly in being respectful and loving, but sometimes righteous indignation is appropriate in public.

  165. Ray, I hope this doesn’t offend you, but why would it make a difference if it was post-1978? Surely the line was equally offensive on June 7, 1978–or 1977, for that matter. And did nobody respond? What was the subject your bishop corrected someone on in SS? Couldn’t that same spirit have been used to let the insensitive person (who obviously thought he had come up with a great line) understand that such remarks can’t come to church?

  166. Thomas Parkin says:


    I feel sorry for the guy. He belongs to a religion of astonishing depth, beauty, power and truthfulness, but he is so pinched up in his feelings that his passion gets directed against minutiae, that he literally can’t tell up from down. Viewed another way, you could see this terrible poverty of spirit as worthy of pity and concern. How does one go about helping such a man?


  167. Margaret, That doesn’t offend me at all, particularly with what is said in other places on the web!

    Yes, that line was equally offensive prior to 1978. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise and shouldn’t have added the date reference. Thank you for pointing that out. I don’t know if anyone responded. She only told me of the statement. She continued to attend periodically because of the spirit she felt from the missionaries – and, subsequently, other members in other wards.

    Also, yes, the same spirit that my bishop used in Sunday School is the spirit that should influence and direct all of our correction. However, I’m not at the point yet where I can react with patience and humility no matter the provocation. I am trying, and I do a good job usually, but even in a forum like this I occasionally go over the line and am too sharp for the situation.

    Occasionally, there is a need for indignation to be expressed without much finesse, but those instances are few and far between. I just wish my emotions always were in tune with my mind and spirit.

  168. Thomas, you’re waaaaay more Christlike than I am, and maybe even more than…well, Christ. I think that guy would have pissed him off.

  169. I feel strongly that the white-shirt only rule should be resisted. There is a place for civil disobedience even in Zion.

    It works best if the objector is very finely dressed. A fine suit, a fitted shirt with french cuffs and opulent cuff-links, flashy expensive shoes, a fashionable tie—these things seem to lend some authority. When someone presses the issue in preisthood or to me personally, I like to say that “I am dressed in my best” in as snobby a tone as I can muster, and then give them a head to toe once over.

    What better way to respond to pride and faux holiness than with pride and faux holiness?

  170. #63/69: Would you ‘Pop’ the SP over his White Shirt stand? JS, for throwing people out for Tobacco chewing? How about throwing people out of a Temple for selling things? Where is your line?

  171. Come on Bob, it’s not that complicated! My line is to follow Christ–not pop him. The SP obviously just doing his job, however much you might disagree with him. JS was clearly guided by the spirit, as was Christ–and I agree with both of them.

    I’m just talking about a situation where some self-righteous a–hole can’t keep his idiotic busy-body comments to himself and just be nice to people at church. No one, least of all a woman, and especially an investigator, but no one really should ever have to put up with Dudley dress-right critiquing their outfit at church. It just shouldn’t happen. He deserves a swift kick in the butt. And by the way, you’d have to move fast, cause JS and Jesus would both be on my side, and might pop him before you got there.

  172. Thomas Parkin says:


    My feeling is the same. I’m just wondering. This is clearly someone in need of help. He is in the midst of all this spiritual richness, but he thinks righteousness is a matter of not wearing a pant suit to church – and Lord knows what else he thinks is pleasing to God. It’s pathetic – really, worthy of pity. How does one go about helping such a person? Say you were this person’s Bishop, or wife, or friend. Maybe a good beating would just the thing.


  173. #171,172: My answer:one Earring. Come on guys, this Blog was not about “some self-righteous a–hole”, It was about how half(?) the Church feels about a NEED for White Shirts! “Maybe a good beating would just the thing.”.

  174. My thought exactly Thomas!

  175. White shirts are a red herring in my opinion. wear ’em, don’t wear ’em, so what?

  176. Natalie says:

    Although I strongly believe in dressing in a manner that respects others and shows how much we value the work that we perform, it is often difficult to prescribe concrete rules for dressing. This fact was recently brought to my attention when I discussed with the mother of one of my young women what we could do to encourage her to come to church. Her mother replied that the main reason her daughter does not come is that she feels anxious about her body and is consequently uncomfortable wearing a skirt or dress. It seems to me rather inappropriate that we might be excluding members – members who would gladly dress in the best clothes they have or, in the case of this young woman, wear a pantsuit – simply because we insist a rigid and, in my mind, frequently unstylish dress code for Sunday worship. I would much rather see one of my young women arrive to church in a pantsuit than in the flip flops and t-shirts so many of them wear.

  177. I’m with MCQ on this one. Personally, I’m not a fan of the White Shirt. I’ll one one occasionally to church, but I’ll just as often wear a Pink one, a Green one or even a Black one. I’m still a good member.

  178. cew-smoke says:

    Ray #137

    A pox on you for even mentioning a nixing of cheerios and coloring books. I have a four year old who has asberger’s and a two year old who suffers from a common condition known as two-year old-itis. If it were not for cheerios and coloring books we would have spent the past three years in the lobby. You silly, silly man. Not allowing quiet past times for insane (and when I say insane I do mean nut-crazy bonkers) children is right up there with not allowing a die hard blogger/commenter access to the internet. It is the very definition of cruel and unusual. :-)


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